The Santa Claus Parade in Ottawa

The Santa Claus parade getting going in Ottawa.


With so much for you and your family to see and do during the holiday season, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed. To ensure you don’t miss any Christmas fun, we’ve put in the time to find some of the best local events happening near you this season.

This story is a touching one. From 1969, the Ottawa Professional Fire Fighters’ Association has been organizing the ‘Help Santa Toy Parade’ in order to collect toys to give out to less fortunate children during Christmas. 

From its humble beginnings, the parade has grown, to the point where today it attracts tens of thousands of attendees each year. You can see everything from clowns to floats, from bands to (one year) boats, all in support of a great cause. We’ve taken the trouble of outlining what to expect in some neat little sections below, so make sure you don’t skip any parts of it, or you may find yourself a little unsure of what to expect.

It’s a fun day out, of course, but don’t forget to take a toy or put your hand in your pocket; you have the power to change a child’s life. This really is a parade with a difference.

When and Where Can I See Santa?

Santa will be arriving on November 16th, 2019. The parade begins with the flying of the flags at Ottawa City Hall, which is a suitably grand kicking-off point for an event that will bring so much joy to so many people. The City Hall does tend to get crowded during the parade, however, so check out our tips below to ensure you get the most out of the day.

Is There More Than Just Santa?

Santa waving to the crowd from his sleigh in Ottawa.

Santa single-handedly makes all the children on Earth happy, in the space of a single evening; and there’s no denying the fact that he’s the main attraction for Ottawa’s parade. However, that doesn’t mean he’s alone, with this event including a whole lot more than just Father Nick in the festivities.

This is the parade’s 50th year, and they’re really putting on a grand show. There’s everything from hot food and candy canes right through to music and rock climbing. There are firefighters, and officers, and plenty of family activities. It’s a celebration like no other. But at the end of the day, all the celebrations are just that: celebrations. The Ottawa Parade offers something really meaningful, given that everything collected goes to charity. By turning up to the event, you’ll be helping to radically improve the lives of some less fortunate people; and isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

The Parade’s Route

With such a rich history (arguably the richest in the whole of Canada) the Ottawa Santa Claus Parade route should be preserved. Why deviate from something that so many remember fondly, from something that becomes as much a part of the heritage of the next generation as it did the generation before?

That’s why it hasn’t changed. Not one bit. 

The engines start at Ottawa City Hall, heading down Laurier and then onto Bank Street, passing Centropolis, Ottawa Bus Station, St Matthews, Starbucks and finally finishing at TD Place. Step back 50 years and you’ll see a similar sight, only without the Starbucks and smartphones. 

It’s a simple route, but one steeped in tradition, which means that you’ll be taking part in history by simply turning up.

Santa on his sleigh, with the reindeer, all lit up.

General Advice

Due to the high volume of attendees, it is advised to remain vigilant at all times. Warm clothing is a must, as is the right etiquette. This year used toys are no longer accepted as a donation due to the quality of toys over the years, but any used toys can be dropped off at any of the Salvation Army Thrift Stores. If you forget to bring a toy on the day or just want to keep on giving, all Ottawa Fire Stations are also accepting new toys until mid-December. 

Like with every function, park sensibly, and arrive early to find a good spot. Due to the simplicity of the route and the years perfecting it, you can expect the parade to run smoothly and efficiently, with everybody getting the opportunity to see all of the floats.


Santa riding in his sleigh during the parade in Ottawa.

We love the Ottawa Santa Claus Parade because it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It really captures the essence of what the holiday is about.  After all, what is Christmas for if not for celebrating your blessings and providing for those less fortunate than ourselves? 

The atmosphere of the parade appears to do this far better than any fundraiser or bake sale can alone, knitting a community together and inspiring it with a sense of duty to provide not just charity, but entertainment, for those who turn out year after year.

Another great way to celebrate the season — and spend a little more time with Santa Claus himself — is to take some time out and visit the Christmas Glow event in Ottawa. A toasty indoor festival, it’s chock-full of excitement, boasting independent vendor markets, child-friendly play areas, live music, an independent bar, and the crowning jewel on its already ornate Christmas Tree: one million twinkling lights and light sculptures. Just stepping through the door is an experience in itself, but sharing that experience with friends, family, and your children bring a whole new perspective to Christmas and allow you to rediscover what pure awe and fascination truly feels like. It really is magical; don’t miss out.

Note: This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by the Ottawa Santa Claus Parade.

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